Monday, July 03, 2006

Ss. Peter and Paul, Sinners-Become-Martyrs

Both Sinners: Saul killed Christians: “And I then thought it my duty to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this I did in Jerusalem; and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests to do so; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them; and oftentimes in all the synagogues I punished them and tried to force them to blaspheme; and in my extreme rage against them I even pursued them to foreign cities.”[1]

Simon-Become-Peter: reverts to Simon son of John by the triple denial of Christ. He is incapable of the love of agape that is self-gift to death, but the love of companionship represented by the word “`fileo’ [that] means the love of friendship, tender but not all-encompassing.”[2]

Can we say that Saul was really innocent because he had a subjectively certain albeit objectively erroneous conscience, and therefore was in invincibly ignorant?” Can we say that Peter was frightened for his life and therefore subjectively innocent and not blameworthy for betraying Christ (in a way not unlike Judas)?

The Subjectively Certain but Objectively Erroneous Conscience:

This is the continuously interesting question of the conflict of conscience and authority. Iconic case in point is contraception and the magisterial authority of “Humanae Vitae.” Retrospectively, an easier case for us, but more difficult for the conscience of the German people in WWII: Hitler and the SS. The mind of then-Cardinal Ratzinger:

“What I was only dimly aware of in this conversation became glaringly clear a little later in a dispute among colleagues about the justifying power of the erroneous conscience. Objecting to the thesis [that “Conscience… dispenses from truth”] someone countered that if this were so then the SS-people would be justified and we should seek them in heaven since they carried out all their atrocities with fanatic conviction and complete certainty of conscience. Another responded with utmost assurance that of course this was indeed the case. There is no doubting the fact that Hitler and his accomplices, who were deeply convinced of their cause, could not have acted otherwise. Therefore, the objective terribleness of their deeds notwithstanding, they acted morally, subjectively speaking. Since they followed their albeit mistaken consciences, one would have to recognized their conduct as moral and, as a result, should not doubt their eternal salvation.”[3]

Ratzinger’s Point: To be objectively erroneous is subjectively culpable. “Conscience” is the “consciousness” resulting from the experience of the ontological tendency of the person as image-becoming-likeness of the Divine Persons (Each of Whom is total self-gift to the Other). It is morally culpable to be subjectively certain that an objectively evil act is right. He quotes St. Basil of the 4th century and Cardinal Newman of the 19th.
Basil: “`The love of God is not founded on a discipline imposed on us from outside, but is constitutively established in us as the capacity and necessity of our rational nature.’ Basil speaks in terms of `the spark of divine love which has been hidden in us,’ an expression which was to become important in medieval mysticism…. (T)he spark of divine love which has been put into us by the Creator, means this: `We have received interiorly beforehand the capacity and disposition for observing all divine commandments… These are not something imposed from without.’ Referring everything back to its simple core, Augustine adds: `We could never judge that one thing is better than another, if a basic understanding of the good had not already been instilled in us.’
“This means that the first so-called ontological level of the phenomenon conscience consists in the fact that something like an original memory of the good and true (both are identical) has been implanted in us, that there is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine. From its origin, man’s being resonates with some things and clashes with others. This anamnesis of the origin, which results from the godlike constitution of our being is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents. It is so to speak an inner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears it echo from within. He sees: That’s it! That is what my nature points to and seeks.”[4]

Ratzinger on John Henry Newman: “Again let us take a formulation of St. Basil. The love of God, which is concrete in the commandments, is not imposed on us from without, the church Father emphasizes, but has been implanted in us beforehand. The sense of the good ahs been stamped upon us, Augustine puts it. We can now appreciate Newman’s toast first to conscience and then to the pope. The pope cannot impose commandments on the faithful Catholics because he wants to or finds it expedient. Such a modern, voluntaristic concept of authority can only distort the true theological meaning of the apace. The true nature of the Petrine office ahs become so incomprehensible in the modern age no doubt because we only think of authority in terms which do not allow for bridges between subject and object. Accordingly, everything which odes not come from the subject is thought to be externally imposed. But the situation is really quite different according to the anthropology of conscience which we have tried to come to an appreciation of in these relections. The anamnesis instilled in our being needs, one might say, assistance from without so that it can become aware of itself. But this `from without’ is not something set in opposition to anamnesis but ordered to it. It has maieutic a function, imposes nothing foreign, but brings to fruition what is proper to anamnesis, namely its interior openness to the truth….’

“The true sense of the teaching authority of the pope consists in his being the advocated of the Christian memory. The pope does not impose from without. Rather he elucidates the Christian memory and defends it. For this reason the toast to conscience indeed must precede the toast to the Pope because without conscience there would not be a papacy. All power that the papacy has is power of conscience. It is service to the double memory upon which the faith is based and which again and again must be purified, expanded, and defended against the destruction of memory which is threatened by a subjectivity forgetful of its own foundation as well as by the pressures of social and cultural conformity.”[5]

The Conversions of St. Peter and St. Paul

The large point to be made is that the conversion to Christ is not simply “the revision of a few opinions and attitudes.[6] It is a death-event. In other words, it is an exchange of the old subject for another. The `I’ ceases to be an autonomous subject standing in itself. It is snatched away from itself and fitted into a new subject. The `I’ is not simply submerged, but it must really release its grip on itself in order then to receive itself anew in and together with a greater `I.’”

Augustine says: “Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching and their confession of faith.”[7]

John Paul II says: “It is urgent to rediscover and to set forth once more the authentic reality of the Christian faith, which is not simply a set of propositions to be accepted with intellectual assent. Rather, faith is a lived knowledge of Christ, a living remembrance of his commandments, and a truth to be lived out. A word, in any event, is not truly received until it passes into action, until it is put into practice. Faith is a decision involving one’s whole existence. It is an encounter, a dialogue, a communion of love and of life between the believer and Jesus Christ, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6).”[8]

Then, John Paul introduces the connection between faith and martyrdom: “Charity, in conformity with the radical demands of the Gospel, can lead the believer to the supreme witness of martyrdom.”[9] He then insists: “Martyrdom, accepted as an affirmation of the inviolability of the moral order, bears splendid witness both to the holiness of God’s law and to the inviolability of the personal dignity of man, created in God’s image and likeness. This dignity may never be disparaged or called into question, even with good intentions, whatever the difficulties involved.”[10]

Ratzinger on Faith as Con-version:

“Belief signifies the decision that at the very core of human existence there is a point which cannot be nourished and supported on the visible and tangible, which encounters and comes into contact with what cannot be seen and finds that it is a necessity for its own existence.
“Such an attitude is certainly to be attained only by what the language of the Bible calls `reversal,’ `con-version.’ Man’s natural center of gravity draws him to the visible, to what he can take in his hand and hold as his own. He has to turn round inwardly in order to see how badly he is neglecting his own interests by letting himself be drawn along in this way by his natural center of gravity. He must turn round to recognize how blind he is if he trusts only what he sees with his eyes. Without this change of direction, without this resistance to the natural center of gravity, there can be no belief. Indeed belief is the con-version in which man discovers that he is following an illusion if he devotes himself only to the tangible. This is at the same time the fundamental reason why belief is not demonstrable: it is an about-turn; only he who turns about is receptive to it; and because our center of gravity does not cease to incline us in another direction it remains a turn that is new every day; only in a life-long conversion can we become aware of what it means to say `I believe’… (I)t has always meant a leap, a somewhat less obvious and less easily recognizable one perhaps, across an infinite gulf, a leap namely out of the tangible world that presses on man from every side. Belief has always had something of an adventurous break or leap about it, because in every age it represents the risky enterprise of accepting what plainly cannot be seen as the truly real and fundamental. Belief was never simply the attitude obviously corresponding to the whole slant of human life; it has always been a decision calling on the depths of existence, a decision that in every age demanded a turnabout by man that can only be achieved by an effort of will.”

Conversion and Name-Change

The point made above by then-Cardinal Ratzinger is that conscience, and faith as its act, has a distinct metaphysical anthropology. Conscience is not primarily a conceptual knowing, “a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents.”[12] As Newman says: “As regards the first principles expressed in such propositions as `There is a right and a wrong,’ `a true and a false,’ `a just and an unjust,’ `a beautiful and a deformed;’ they are abstractions to which we give a notional assent in consequence of our particular experiences of qualities in the concrete, to which we give a real assent. As we form our notion of whiteness from the actual sight of snow, milk, a lily, or a cloud, so after experiencing the sentiment of approbation which arises in us on the sight of certain acts one by one, we go on to assign to that sentiment a cause, and to those acts a quality, and we give to this notional cause or quality the name of virtue, which is an abstraction not a thing…. These so-called first principles, I say, are really conclusions or abstractions from particular experiences… they are abstractions from facts, not elementary truths prior to reasoning…. From such experience – an experience which is ever recurring – we proceed to abstract and generalize; and thus the abstract proposition `There is a right and a wrong,’ as representing an act of inference, is received by the mind with a notional, not a real assent”[13] (underline mine).

Conscience is first and foremost a consciousness (not a concept as abstraction) resulting from the ontological tendency of the being of the “I” as image of the divine Persons. When Jesus Christ stands before the human person and calls him to love in the most radical way, to the point of loving the enemy (Mt. 5, 40), the response of conscience becomes an “attitude” (self-gift). It is a conversion of the entire ontological orientation of the person. Change of being involves change of name. Revelation discloses those changes: Abram becomes “Abraham,” Jacob becomes “Israel,” Miriam becomes “full of grace,” Simon becomes “Peter,” Saul becomes “Paul.” The name goes on after the quality goes in.

[1] Acts 26, 9-12.
[2] Benedict XVI, General Audience, May 24, 2006.
[3] J. Ratzinger, “Truth and Conscience,” Proceedings of the Tenth Bishops’ Workshop, Dallas, Texas, The Pope John Center (1991) 11.
[4] Ibid. 20.
[5] Ibid. 21-22.
[6] J. Ratzinger, “The Spiritual Basis and Ecclesial Identity of Theology,” The Nature and Mission of Theology Ignatius (1995) 51.
[7] Augustine, Sermo 295, 1-2, 4, 7-8.
[8] John Paul II, “Veritatis Splendor,” #88.
[9] Ibid. 89.
[10] Ibid. 92.
[11] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 25.
[12] J. Ratzinger, “Conscience and Truth,” op. cit. 20.
[13] John Henry Newman, “Grammar of Assent,” UNDP (1992) 69-70.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Everyone

I have made a Web site about dietary supervisor job description.

I hope you check it out.